Early June has seen an exceptionally high level of RN activity across the globe. In this article, we have collated some of the best imagery and round up what the fleet has been doing
The CSG concluded their participation in NATO exercise Steadfast Defender in the Atlantic and passed through the Strait of Gibraltar and into the Mediterranean on 30th May. As a further demonstration of the Anglo-French Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (CJEF), the UK group met up with the French Charles De Gaulle carrier strike group for 3-day exercise Gallic Strike involving 15 ships and 57 aircraft. F-35s and Rafale jets practised attacks against the two carrier groups and conducted simulated strikes against objectives in Corsica, strikes by air assets and by submarine-launched cruise missiles.
Official coverage of this important exercise was poor, with no access for UK journalists, missing an important opportunity to underline the depth of Anglo-French defence cooperation which is of far greater significance than minor fishing disputes that make headlines.
Subsequent to Gallic Strike, aircraft from the carrier, including both UK and USMC F-35s and the Crowsnest-equipped Merlins participated in aspects of air exercise Falcon Strike 21. Hosted by Italy and also involving Israeli F-35A aircraft in complex air operations, scenarios focussed on high-value air asset protection and attack operations, air interdiction, surface to air missile handling, digital close air support with the support of ground forces, as well as dynamic targeting and escorted convoy attack.
On completion of Falcon Strike, ships the CSG went their separate ways and made their first port visits since leaving the UK on 21st May. These visits are primarily for defence diplomacy purposes but also give the crews a chance for some rest and relaxation and runs ashore (Subject to local COVID restrictions).
HMS Defender detached from the CSG early in the deployment and headed to the Eastern Mediterranean. She conducted maritime security patrols with NATO operation Sea Guardian and visited Souda Bay to conduct operational readiness checks at the FORACS range. Along with HNLMS Evertsen, she visited Istanbul for defence diplomacy and hosted UK trade events. The two ships will head into the Black Sea shortly.
HMS Richmond detached from the CSG and headed for the Adriatic, arriving at Bar, Montenegro on the 5th June. She hosted the Prime Minister and Defence Minister of Montenegro for defence engagement events.
As part of the Littoral Response Group (North) deployment, HMS Albion, RFA Mounts Bay and 45 Commando Royal Marines are participating in the 50th annual BALTOPS exercise. Running Between 6th – 18 June, 18 NATO Allies and partner nations are contributing assets. A broad spectrum of activity in the Baltic Sea will include air defence, ASW, amphibious, maritime interdiction and mine countermeasures operations.
HMS Prince of Wales sailed from Portsmouth on 6th June to resume training and trials. The first fixed-wing aircraft landed onboard the ship on 8th June. An F-35 from 207 Squadron, the Operational Conversion Unit for the Lightning, based at RAF Marham touched down in calm clear conditions off the South Coast. This is a significant step towards the RN achieving continuous carrier strike capability.
As well as training serials and inspections by FOST, the carrier is conducting Sea Acceptance Trials which test the ship’s ability to receive and launch jets and helicopters. Three Army Air Copts Apache helicopters have also been embarked for this training period.
The RN has provided a significant security presence for the meeting of world leaders at the G7 Summit in Carbis bay, Cornwall. HMS Northumberland, HMS Tamar, HMS Tyne, HMS Smiter, HMS Ranger and HMS Exploit are all present conducting surveillance and patrols.
RFA Wave Knight sailed from Scotland on 28 May, crossing the Atlantic and has now begun offload of humanitarian aid collected from Barbados to help the island of St Vincent after the eruption of the La Soufrière volcano in April, devastating large areas of the island and forcing large scale evacuations.
HMS Dragon has completed a week of trials with the Wildcat helicopter armed with Martlet and Sea Venom Missiles. These weapons have not yet reached Initial Operating Capability but pre-IOC versions are already being carried by the 815 NAS Wildcats embarked with the Carrier Strike Group. The temporary mast on Dragon’s foredeck is a sensitive anemometer for measuring wind over the ship.
HMS Spey finished her maintenance period at A&P Falmouth and has been painted in the same dazzle paint scheme as her sister, HMS Tamar. On 6th June she participated in the 77th Anniversary of D-Day commemorations off Gold Beach in Normandy, providing a backdrop to the dedication of the new British Memorial. Both Tamar and Spey will sail in the coming weeks to be permanently forward-deployed in the Indo-Pacific region. They will take the westerly route through the Panama Canal and will briefly link up with the Carrier Strike Group ships in the Pacific.